Process group gives clients a safe place to identify and work through conflicts and emotional challenges. Not only can clients gain insight into their own thoughts and motivation, they can also offer understanding and support to other group members. The connections that group members establish with one another creates an atmosphere of trust and safety. It is that trust that allows clients to authentically explore fears, wishes, strengths, feelings and challenges. Ultimately, clients experience difficult interactions and complex emotions in a new and empowering way and can use these new experiences as a model for how to manage their lives outside of the treatment setting more effectively.
This group focuses on teaching clients short-term and long-term goals. The purpose of the group is four-fold:
- To identify areas for personal growth and make a commitment to actively address these areas.
- To regularly monitor and assess progress made on one’s goals as well as in the Ascend Program as a whole.
- To become and remain focused on one’s core values and to learn how to live a life that reflects those values.
- To create and execute a plan to meet goals both in and out of the program.
Art therapy is a form of self-discovery and expression that uses the creative process of making art to help clients identify, contemplate and resolve existing struggles and complex feelings. Art therapy has also been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and increase self-awareness. Art therapy is NOT at all about artistic ability. Once created, clients are given the opportunity to share their artwork in the group and practice putting their feelings into words. This experience results in a weekly visual diary of a client’s inner world and provides an opportunity to integrate newly understood feelings into their lives.
This form of therapy helps clients create, understand, accept and tell a cohesive personal life story. An in-depth understanding of one’s values, skills, general knowledge, challenges and strengths serves as the foundation for one’s narrative. Clients are given a prompt at the beginning of the group that invites deep self-contemplation. They then write a response to the prompt and over time a personal life narrative is woven together.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
DBT is an empirically-based treatment approach developed by Marsha Linehan to help people learn the skills they need to manage difficult relationships and overwhelming emotions. It is based upon the premise that sustainable progress requires a “dialectical” ability to simultaneously ACCEPT one’s current reality AND to hold onto the hope necessary to make CHANGES in one’s life. It is taught as a skills-based curriculum and is divided into four core modules. Each module offers a large number of skills, allowing clients to eventually identify and practice those that are most effective for them. The four modules are:
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness conjures up many different images and ideas. For the purpose of DBT, it is simply referring to the ability to be present in the moment that you are in. Not to think behind or ruminate about the past and not to think about what is coming next. Rather to simply be fully aware of where you are, what you see, hear, smell and feel in the moment that you are currently in. One can be mindful while doing just about anything. Being mindful is a skill that serves as the foundation for the application of all other DBT skills.
- Emotion Regulation – This DBT module focuses on teaching clients to identify, label and express emotions, to understand the function of emotions, to decrease the intensity of one’s emotions and in some cases to change the emotion entirely. Specific focus is given to teaching clients how to manage intense feelings without being reactive or destructive to oneself, one’s goals and/or one’s relationships.
- Interpersonal Effectiveness – The interpersonal effectiveness module is designed to help clients learn how to express themselves clearly and effectively, to assert one’s needs, to set important limits, and to preserve important relationships. These skills rest upon clients learning how to identify their objectives prior to engaging in challenging interactions and how to discern destructive interpersonal patterns. The overall objective of the module is to get what one needs and wants from relationships while simultaneously respecting oneself AND the other person.
- Distress Tolerance – This module focuses on teaching clients to accept and tolerate the things they cannot control. Marsha Linehan says “Pain is inevitable but suffering is not.” When one learns to self soothe, anticipate difficult experiences and plan for them, and accept the reality one is presented with in a given moment, suffering can be lessened and pain can be much better tolerated.
This group teaches clients the skills they need that are associated with living a more functional and independent life. The skills taught include but are not limited to: effective communication, money management, job and college readiness, time management, personal organization, sleep hygiene and self-care. Please note that as part of the intake process, each client’s life skills are assessed. This enables the therapists who lead this group to tailor the skills taught to each cohort whenever possible.
Each week clients have 1 hour of structured exercise with a focus on building strength, flexibility, and endurance. Clients work with a certified personal trainer and the trainer assesses each individual client’s fitness level and goals and then helps clients to develop a fitness plan for success at any fitness level.
Cognitive Behavioral & Exposure Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an empirically based treatment approach that helps people recognize and change patterns of automatic negative thoughts and core beliefs that create problem emotions and behaviors. Behavior strategies help clients practice new ways of interpreting their experience and responding effectively. One behavior strategy and approach used in this group is exposure therapy. Exposure techniques help clients progressively experience and tolerate triggers of anxiety and decrease compulsive responses used to reduce anxiety that interfere with effective behavior. Changing the patterns of behavior help clients reduce overall anxiety in sustainable ways.